It’s rare to walk through any park in New York City and not see a London plane tree. They account for more than 15% of New York City’s tree population, and more than 50% of the trees in Madison Square Park. Acting as a natural air filter, London plane trees are one of the most efficient trees at removing pollutants around them. They grow to between 60–100 feet tall, and occasionally to over 130 feet. Their bark is greenish gray that peels away to show tan splotches.
The London plane is a cross between the American sycamore and the Oriental plane tree. This happened when the two parent trees found themselves sharing the same space at Vauxhall Gardens in London. The accidental new species was discovered by the owner John Tradescant, while in his nursery garden during the mid-17th century. There weren’t many London planes in New York City prior to the 1930s, before the well-known Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, made it his mission to plant them in every New York City park.